Blanca: Building her Beauty Salon Business Dream


Blanca’s come a long way from her days braiding her sister’s hair.

Blanca’s childhood wasn’t always happy. Growing up in Mexico, her family was not supportive of her drive to learn, and constantly told her that she would be better off learning how to clean and be a wife. The happiest times that she had with her family were the days that everyone would line up and ask her to cut their hair. For Blanca, haircare was an outlet for her creativity that she learned from her uncle, one of the few people in her family supportive of her talent.

As she grew up, she knew that she wanted to own a salon. After discovering that her uncle had his own barber shop, she quickly swept up his scissors and found herself  eager to give haircuts to family and friends. But after she got married, the time spent raising her family made her lose touch with her passion. It wasn’t until she came to the United States to get better care for her daughter’s medical condition that she began to entertain her dream once again.

After coming to the United States, Blanca realized her first step to achieving her dream was going to beauty school.

To accomplish this, she needed to save money for the expensive tuition fees. After working two jobs for several years, she finally decided it was time and enrolled in California Beauty School. But Blanca could not transform into a full time student over night; she still had to work eight hours each day on top of her studies.

“I was working, working, working; but I never gave up,” she said.

Upon graduating, Blanca went in search of salon jobs. She worked for little or no pay to learn everything she could taking jobs at different salons throughout the Bay Area, even though they were hesitant to train her.

“At every single salon, I learned a little something new.”

Once she built up her list of clientele and had accumulated a great deal of expertise, she saw her opportunity to move to salon owner. Opening up a new salon often requires taking out loans, so Blanca was determined to build up her credit to access them.

Though she sought advice from local credit-building and finance organizations, Blanca left these conversations “depressed and confused.”

Mission Asset Fund soon connected her to several business classes where she gained a better grasp on what it would take to get her business up and running, and she slowly began mapping out her business plan. Through MAF, she accessed business loans so when the chance to purchase a salon came knocking at her door, she was prepared. The owner of the salon she was working in was ready for retirement and looking to sell, so it was a prime opportunity for Bianca.

Though the transition to salon ownership was by no means smooth sailing.

Like every other stage of her life, Blanca had to fight hard to get the right documentation to establish ownership. Mountains of paperwork and licensing agreements delayed the process. Finally on October 1st, 2014, the salon became hers. Now Blanca can finally turn her focus on expanding her dream. Knowing all too well the difficulties that arise as a new employee of a salon, her goal is to attract people with a drive to learn and pay them well as they are trained. “I want the best for them and the best for the business.” She recognizes that certain employees may learn faster than others and may have strengths in specific areas.

“Like the fingers on your hand, all of us are different.”

The salon is now a family affair. Bianca and her daughters all manage a piece of the business. In the future Blanca wants to expand her business to include a beauty store, make up salon, and multiple hair salons. And with her drive and motivation, it’s hard not to believe in her success.

Leonor Brings Sunshine to the Community


Find out how Leonor used Lending Circles to launch a business to promote good health in her community

For as long as Leonor Garcia can recall, the driving force in her life was to support her community. Even when she was a little girl in El Salvador, Leonor says she always had a keen sense for business, but would use her savviness to help the people around her.

She grew up on a sprawling tobacco farm which her father and mother were in charge of. On the side, her mother owned a small shop that sold food, beverages and other items for the men working in the field. Leonor would spend all of her time tagging along with her father as he inspected the fields, managed the workers, and tended to the crops. When the growing season had ended, she would go with her mother and watch her negotiate sales prices and contracts with various companies and stores that wanted to purchase the tobacco.

Leonor learned a great deal about business and the relationship between products and money, but she also learned that working for the community yields the greatest rewards.

Leonor went on to become a teacher in a local school. For her, teaching children was a dream job. She worked her way up to become the headmaster of the school. During this time, Leonor kept her dream of entrepreneurship alive by owning and running a highly successful grocery store. After she retired from teaching, she decided that it was also time to sell the store. Leonor needed a new adventure and she knew just where to find it. She knew that in the US she would have more opportunities and more freedoms to grow a business.

After moving to the US in 2001, Leonor wanted to start her new business immediately, but she was blocked. Whenever she went for a loan, she was denied because she had no credit. For Leonor, that was a slap in the face. She had run a highly successful business in El Salvador while running a school. She also grew up watching and learning everything she could from her parents.

Leonor wouldn’t give up, but she needed a reliable way of getting money and building her credit. That’s when she found out about Mission Asset Fund through one of her friends. She was able to get a micro loan and build up her credit for future investment. The loan helped her purchase a generator, display shelves and other medical equipment to open up her business, Leonor’s Nature Sunshine.

Leonor’s Nature Sunshine is a business built upon Leonor’s desire to help people live healthier lives.

She provides the latest natural health products, supplements, diagnostic tests and homeopathic remedies for people’s needs. A few minutes in her chair and Leonor will know exactly what ails you and how to fix it! Leonor believes in finding affordable products that treat the root of the problem and the whole system. Her most popular products are for digestion, chlorophyll and probiotics.

Leonor’s store used to be located in a flea market in Richmond, but after her surgery, she moved it to the comfort of her home which was also more private and confidential for clients. She is so client-centered that if they can’t pay her upfront, clients are able to pay her in installments for their purchases. Leonor has become so popular that people come to her house daily to have a meeting with her.

After she appeared on local TV last year, Leonor said she was inundated with calls as soon as the interview was over.

“People said ‘it’s such a blessing to have your phone number!’,” she recalls with a laugh.

Through her successful business Leonor has been able to focus on healing her community and she’s got big dreams for her future. “ I want to have more capacity and more recognition to help people have a satisfied, healthy life,” she says. Leonor also wants to challenge herself new trends in her field, attend conferences and become savvier with social media. She hopes to improve her economic status and begin training others as health promoters.

Right now, Leonor is training her husband, a welder, to work with her in the business. Her interest in nonprofits motivated her to be an ambassador and funder for A New America’s first entrepreneurship class as well as donate funds and time to various nonprofits around the Bay Area. She says that without MAF, none of this could have ever happened and she is thankful every day that she has been given this amazing opportunity to be Mother Nature in her community.

New Latthivongskorn: From dreams to medical school


New is a passionate public health advocate and the first undocumented student to enter UCSF Medical School

It was near the end of high school when Jirayut “New” Latthivongskorn realized that he wanted to make an impact on the American healthcare field. His mother was rushed to the hospital in Sacramento after fainting and losing significant blood. They soon discovered that she had several tumors to take care of. New’s parents were recent immigrants from Thailand and didn’t speak English. His older siblings were busy with work, so New had to help his family navigate a complex healthcare system from translating at doctor visits, taking care of his mother, and handling insurance matters.

“It was the beginning for me to think about what I could have done in the situation, like if I was a doctor or healthcare provider,” he said.

New’s parents had given up so much after economic and social burdens pushed them to move to California from Thailand when New was nine years old. His parents worked long hours at restaurants as waiters and cooks in order to make ends meet. Their drive motivated New at a young age to excel academically and master the English language so he could achieve the American Dream. But because New was undocumented, there were still countless obstacles awaiting him on that journey.

New applied to a variety of University of California schools and was accepted into UC Davis with the Regents Scholarship that would have covered most of tuition costs. Right before the school year would have started, the scholarship offer was rescinded because he was missing an important document in his paperwork: a green card.

Growing up, New had experienced fear of friends and the greater community finding out about his status, but this was different. “That was my first time coming up against an institutional barrier,” he said. New was prepared to go to community college instead but his family came together to support one year at UC Berkeley.

After that, he would have to find the funds to continue on his own. “In my second year of college, I started getting desperate,” he said Luckily, in 2010, he received a scholarship from Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC), nonprofit that supports low-income immigrant students in their pursuit of a U.S. college education. That was a gateway for New to becoming active in organizing for immigrant rights.

Getting involved with groups like the E4FC, ASPIRE, and groups on the UC Berkeley campus opened up New’s eyes to a community of undocumented students who were facing the same struggles. As he neared his graduation from Berkeley, New refocused his goal to going into the medical field but he still had so many questions as an undocumented person. “Is it even possible to go to med school? Where would I apply? How would talking about my immigration status affect my chances?” New said, remembering the confusion he felt.

“We didn’t know anyone who had gotten in to med school as undocumented but people said they had heard of someone who had heard of someone…It was like trying to find a unicorn.”

To solve that lack of structure and support, New co-founded Pre-Health Dreamers with two colleagues from E4FC, a group that two years later is growing across the country to empower undocumented students in their pursuit of graduate and health professional studies. After graduation, New interned at organizations relating to healthcare access and policy, which caused him to become interested in public health alongside the practice of medicine. “My parents and friends are undocumented and when they get sick, they don’t have access which is ridiculous.

I want to change that.” Shortly after DACA passed, New heard about Lending Circles and other programs that helped finance the cost of the application. He had already applied for DACA but he was interested in learning about credit-building. Now that he and his friends had SSN numbers, joining the Lending Circles could help them get started on a path of financial stability. New used his loan to build credit and pay for his medical school applications. “It has been very helpful. Now I have good credit and learned a lot after going through the financial trainings at MAF about managing money,” he said. All of New’s hard work paid off because he is now the first undocumented medical student accepted to UCSF School of Medicine.

With one week away, he is anticipating the start of an exciting journey and passing the Pre-Health Dreamers torch to the next generation of leaders. His main piece of advice for other undocumented youth is to speak up and seek help. “I got here because I had organizations that helped me come to term with what it meant to be undocumented,” he said. “As an Asian, undocumented youth, the fear was so much more pronounced. I know what it’s like to have silence define my life and my family’s.” New believes in finding mentors and advocate to help find opportunities. Perseverance is also key for him when making decisions.

“There is so much uncertainty but never take no for an answer. You don’t know until you try. I am living proof of that. If I hadn’t tried, I would not have had the opportunities I have had–I would not be here today.”

Claudia: Becoming a U.S. Citizen


From Mexico to San Francisco, this stylist followed her dream and is a proud new U.S. Citizen

There was a buzz of excitement in the crowd sitting in the balcony of the Paramount Theater in Oakland. Smiling families and friends waved American flags and excited children clutched bouquets of flowers. It was just like a graduation ceremony with life-changing certificates and congratulatory speakers. But this was a citizenship ceremony. In a few moments, everyone on the floor below would be U.S. citizens.

The immigration officer on stage told the soon-to-be citizens: “This country is a better place because of your talents, character and personality. Thank you for choosing the U.S.”

Claudia Quijano proudly stood with 1,003 other immigrants from 93 countries of origin listening to the speech. Each person was asked to stand up when their country of origin was called, at which point the audience would cheer until all the aspiring citizens were standing. America’s melting pot was right here in this room together from Guatemala, to Egypt, to Germany, to South Africa.

The ceremony featured video messages from Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and President Obama welcoming the new citizens to the country and emphasizing the significance of this privilege and duty. The keynote speaker was an immigration judge and daughter of Armenian and Finnish immigrants, who talked about civic engagement and serving one’s country.

Claudia’s journey started 9 years ago, August 2004, when she immigrated by herself from Mexico to Santa Rosa. She applied for political asylum and moved to San Francisco shortly after. Back in Mexico, Claudia studied at a beauty school and became passionate about coloring hair. She began styling in 1987 and had her own salon in 1991. She dreamed about finding success in the United States but knew she would have to compete with so many other immigrants and American citizens.

“It’s incredible. For me, it’s a very important day. It represents the most important goal for me in my life,” she said.

When Claudia first arrived in the US, she had trouble getting the right paperwork for legal residence. She obtained a lawyer who helped her become a permanent resident but then discovered that it was still difficult for her to secure the kinds of jobs she wanted because she was not a citizen. But Claudia was not discouraged.

She worked as a stylist at a salon in the Mission District when she learned about Mission Asset Fund and the Lending Circles for Citizenship program, which connected aspiring citizens with resources and access to funding for the $680 citizenship application fee. She was overwhelmed with how much MAF was able to provide her with the information she needed.

“Everyone there was always happy and helped me a lot,” she said with a smile.

In January 2014, Claudia joined a Lending Circle for Citizenship and received her check for the $680 application fee. She described the application process as “easy” because of the involvement and support of MAF and other nonprofit organizations.

Claudia is excited for many benefits that will come as a citizen, but the opportunity to vote is number one.

“There are many responsibilities I now have,” she said. “The most important is I can vote and improve my life.”

The candidates recited the national anthem followed by the oath of citizenship and pledge of allegiance. The moment was an emotional one for Claudia.

“I almost cried in the ceremony. My favorite part was singing the anthem with everyone. We were all singing and feeling happy,” she said.

Her advice to other immigrants and aspiring citizens is to fight for your dreams and not give up.

“Believe in yourself and look for places to help you,” she said.

The ceremony closed with a local choir singing two classic American folk songs, “America the Beautiful” and “This Land is Your Land.”

Claudia’s long-time friend, Maritza Herdocia, joined her after the ceremony to celebrate her achievement. Claudia named Maritca as a main support for her over the past eight years.

For Claudia, becoming a U.S. citizen means unlocking more opportunities. For years, she has worked as a hair stylist, renting chairs in small salons in San Francisco. But now that she’s a new American, she is ready to take on something even bigger: opening her own beauty salon.

Little Plates, Big Heart


Find out how MAF’s microloans can turn little plates into big business

In the middle of La Cocina’s large kitchen in the Mission District, a small woman moved with the graceful precision of a swan.

Gliding between steaming trays, boiling pots, and simmering pans like a gentle breeze, she smelled, tasted, and seasoned everything in a dreamlike blur. Around her were three other women, all moving with the thoughtful synchronicity of a well trained dance crew. Each woman was conducting a symphony of tasks over an orchestra of pots and pans.

Ximena and I felt like interlopers when we entered into the kitchen and asked for Guadalupe. But without missing a beat, the stout woman sprinkled a little salt into a pan and walked over to us beaming with pride.

“Ah”, she said “we missed you last week.”

Ximena and I apologized for not being able to visit her at the El Pipila tent at Off The Grid, San Francisco’s hub for the best food the city has to offer.

“It’s OK,” she said, waving her hand gently.

“I was so busy, I could barely talk to anyone!” she said with a giggle. For Guadalupe, life was not always as good as it was today.

When Guadalupe was a child in Acambaro, a small city in Mexico, she had a large loving family.

Her father, like many others, had to leave them and travel to the United States as an undocumented worker to support his family. He would send whatever pay he could to her mother so that she could take care of the children. Because of his status, he couldn’t visit with them, and had to stay separated from them for a better part of Guadalupe’s childhood. In 1986, her father received amnesty as an undocumented person, and in 2004, he finally became a citizen. Unfortunately, Guadalupe and her siblings were unable to get citizenship themselves, as they were now older than 18.

Like her father,Guadalupe ended up leaving her two daughters behind for the opportunities that the U.S. provided. As she recounts having to say goodbye to her daughters, tears begin to well up in her eyes. She remembers the moment she had to leave her little girls, how she knew she would never see them grow up, go to school, or attend their first dance.

She quickly composes herself, then turns around and points to one of the women cooking behind her.

“That’s one of my daughters”, she says proudly. The woman gives us the same beaming smile as Guadalupe. Her daughter is not just another chef, but a partner in the business.

The other women in the kitchen with Guadalupe was her mother, who had come to see the business her daughter had built. Guadalupe’s daughter was there as well, working alongside her mother. Three generations of women, together, building a business based upon cultural traditions and hometown flavors.

Guadalupe built her business, El Pipila, from the ground up. She worked almost every job possible in the restaurant business, until one day her friend Alicia told her, “You should just open a restaurant.” From there she built her credit and finances at Mission Asset Fund, went through La Cocina’s incubator program, and received one of MAF’s microloans. When she started her business it was just her. Now, she employs her whole family in one way or another.

Cooking for Guadalupe has always been a family affair, and today was no different. Guadalupe drifts in and out of thought as she talked about how she and her mother would make the tastiest tortillas from scratch and now, she and her daughters do the same.

She fondly remembers all the time spent with her siblings and mother in the kitchen. Each child had a specific duty and would always take the utmost care in completing it. For them food wasn’t just sustenance, it was the love of family made tangible and delicious.

With one of MAF’s microloans, Guadalupe was able to buy equipment and partially pay for a van for her thriving catering business. She is careful to tell us that even though she is doing well now, when she started she thought her catering business would never make it. Her food didn’t immediately catch on so she had to be very patient. It took her a few months, but people started coming to her booth and requesting her for events and dinner parties.

She now dreams of one day having a small food stand, a brick and mortar location that families can come to. When we asked why she is doing this, she looks back at her daughter and says, “I am doing this for her and her sister. I want to make sure that neither of them has to work for anyone but themselves”.

Microloan Spotlight: Elvia Buendia, Cupcake Boss


Elvia loved desserts, so she followed her heart and opened her own cupcake shop!

Elvia Buendia grew up in a small town on the outskirts of Mexico City. As the youngest of 6 children, she was raised in a protective, loving, moderate-income family. She had a passion for desserts which stemmed from spending time in the kitchen with her mother who would use farm-fresh ingredients to whip up delicious homemade pastries and cakes.

Elvia studied computer programming for three years and then got married. After a few years, she and her husband decided that they wanted their family to have more opportunities and moved to San Francisco.

Elvia thought that she would be able to stay at home with her children and work from home as a computer programmer. She found it hard to find stable work and decided that it would be better to focus on raising her children.  One day, her son asked her what she loved to do most, she answered: “Baking.”

And that’s when everything changed.

The first cake Elvia made for her family afterwards didn’t turn out well because she mixed up using Celsius and Fahrenheit cooking temperatures in the recipe.

“ I remember dumping the cake out on the the plate and it fell with a thump. My son then exclaimed, ‘Look, Mommy made a tire!’” she recalls, with a laugh.

After that, Elvia signed up for cake decorating and baking classes as a hobby. Once she began taking her cakes to friends and parties, people wanted her to bake them cakes as well.

“That’s when I thought, oh I can start a business!” Elvia says.

But starting a business was not simple. Elvia had a lot of debt at the time but after coming to Mission Asset Fund for help, she was encouraged to apply for a microloan. She used the $5000 loan to invest in a fridge, business license and a number of necessities to grow her bakery, La Luna Cupcakes.

Baking homemade desserts may seem like a luxury to most people, but for Elvia, it’s an essential part of her day and something she believes anyone can do if they truly enjoy it.

She believes in using fresh, natural ingredients for her cupcakes and cake pops just the way her mother taught her.

Red velvet, mocha chocolate, honeymoon cranberry orange, are just a few of the delicious flavors Elvia offers. La Luna Cupcakes started as online orders only and worked out of the La Cocina incubator. Elvia would deliver the orders and cater special events herself.

In 2013, La Luna Cupcakes was able to move into a physical store in the Crocker Galleria in downtown San Francisco. Elvia also has hired 4 employees to work with her, including her husband who joined last December!

Elvia’s life is very different from what she dreamed of.

Running a business can be stressful financially with the challenges of sales and promotion, but she says she has a simple and easy life. She’s been married for 25 years and has two kids- a 22-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son. Even after all these years, her favorite thing to do is open the oven and smell the fresh cupcakes.

“It makes me think of all the time I spent with my mother in her kitchen,” Elvia says with a smile.

This December, Elvia will have paid off her loan and looks forward to expanding La Luna Cupcakes. Her goal is to open up stores in two more locations and she cites her children as her motivation to continue her business.

“I always taught them if you want something, you can do it! Believe in your dream!”


Nesima Aberra is the Marketing Associate and New Sector Fellow at Mission Asset Fund. She loves storytelling, social good and a good cup of tea. You can reach her at [email protected].

Calling all Dreamers


Jesus Castro shares his own story and hopes it inspires others to apply for DACA.

One of the things I find so empowering about our work at MAF is seeing young leaders follow their passion and give back to the community. Jesus Castro is one of those leaders who joined Lending Circle for Dreamers and has gone on to advocate for immigrant youth. I interviewed him about an exciting public service announcement he has developed with the SF Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs to raise awareness about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

How did you get involved with the SF Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs?

The first time I came in contact with the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA), or more specifically OCEIA’s director, Adrienne Pon, was at the Coro Annual Luncheon. After giving a speech on how Coro’s Exploring Leadership Program changed my life, several people came up to me to congratulate me, and discuss my career path, I was really honored. A couple minutes after Director Pon approached me and I think she stood out to me the most because of her offices name. I am very passionate about the fight for immigrants and, their name being The Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant affairs just caught my eye right away that’s when I knew that I wanted to get that internship more than anything.

What was the purpose of the PSA video?

The PSA’s purpose was to create a useful outreach tool to educate people about DACA and encourage them to come forward and apply. We were also hoping to incorporate it in our one year of DACA event this in celebration of DACA’s one year anniversary, so in response this PSA video came into play. During the process there were some hiccups and the video was delayed but with help from an awesome friend, and my own little grain of sand the video was finally completed and it’s now on YouTube. The video is also posted on our dreamSF website.

How did you feel sharing your personal story in the video?

Sharing my story is something that I really enjoy doing not only because it empowers others to share their stories, but also because it also gives me the strength and courage to keep sharing my story.  It’s a domino effect they need a little courage from others to share their stories, and these people’s positive feedback gives the person telling their story the courage to keep doing sharing.

What are some reasons DACA eligible youth have not applied yet?

I can’t know for sure and I can’t speak on behalf of those who haven’t yet applied for DACA, but if I were to guess why they haven’t applied I would say it’s because of the fact that they don’t have the money to do so. The cost to apply for DACA is $465 which is a huge investment and many people are also unfamiliar with the application process and what it takes to renew, so we need to provide the right educational and financial resources.

How did you find out about MAF?

Mission Asset Fund (MAF) has definitely played a huge role in my life. The first time I heard about them was through Legal Services for Children, the organization that helped me with my DACA application process. They suggested that I go to MAF for financial assistance because at the time they were offering a $155 scholarship for DACA applicants on top of their lending services to pay for the DACA application. I joined what they call Lending Circles for Dreamers were I got a step by step on filling in the application in order to receive the check that would pay for my application. Now, the program offers participants an opportunity to get a group loan and save so you can pay for your application.

What are some other ways the city is trying to assist immigrants?

Specifically, our office is assisting immigrants with language access, naturalization services and in terms of DACA youth/adult immigrants, we are launching a dreamsf fellows program that is specifically for DACA approved people and we have a Pathways to Citizenship initiative.

What are your hopes for comprehensive immigration reform?

A comprehensive immigration reform would be exceptional for all immigrants that currently reside in the U.S. I’m sure this comprehensive reform is around the corner but we just all have to make an effort in the process and show an interest in it. We currently have DACA but what about our parents and those who don’t meet the requirements for DACA? Not every undocumented person qualifies for DACA so many families are being broken up while immigration reforms is at a standstill. We need to move forward or our communities suffer.

What does civic engagement mean to you and how it is important in your life?

To me, it’s the 2nd chapter to my story. I have been with OCEIA for 2 years now and it’s really a home away from home. I can’t thank Director Pon enough for giving me the opportunity to be part of her team. Since the beginning of my internship the work has been tough, and I mean that in the most thankful way. Thankful because from all the work that I have done I know feel better prepared me for whatever other job comes my way. I also want to thank Richard Whipple he has been there every step of the way. He not only guides me through work challenges but also through life’s challenges. Although I have done a lot with OCEIA, this is only the beginning.  I am still looking forward to many years with them, and as OCEIA grows, I will as well.


Nesima Aberra is the Marketing Associate and New Sector Fellow at Mission Asset Fund. She loves storytelling, social good and a good cup of tea. You can reach her at [email protected].

California DREAMing: DACA and the making of an American dream


MAF member, Ju Hong, talks about Mr. Hyphen and the American Dream.

Ju Hong is a man of few limitations. He is a research assistant with Harvard University, on the National UnDACAmented Research Project (NURP), a coordinator at the Men’s Center on the Laney College Campus, a graduate student at San Francisco State University and newly crowned Mr. Hyphen.

Ju is the ideal of the American Dream, Ju is undocumented. He came to the United States from South Korea when he was younger with his mother who wanted a better life for her children.

“My mother works two jobs at restaurant, twelve hours a day, seven days a week, and never had a vacation ever since she arrived to this country. She is tough,” says Ju.

As an undocumented student, Ju was unable to get a job, access financial aid, and get a driver’s license. Ju took his mother’s example and decided he was going to work as hard as he could to make her proud. That’s when Ju heard about a contest hosted by Hyphen Magazine. With this contest, he saw a chance to bring visibility to the lives of undocumented immigrant populations.

Creating Visibility

“Hyphen magazine was a great avenue to highlight a critical immigration issue. One out of seven Korean immigrants are undocumented. Asians are now the largest group of new immigrants in this country. The AAPI community cannot ignore this issue. In fact, the AAPI community should engage in the conversation and join in efforts to push for a fair and humane comprehensive immigration reform.”

Of the 11 million undocumented people in the United States, 1.3 million are Asian, many of whom are youth who have lived most of their lives in the United States. But it costs $680 just to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a substantial barrier standing in the way of for hardworking families like Hong’s.

A Circle of Support

When Ju first came to Mission Asset Fund he was looking for a way to build his credit now that his DACA application was approved, and access the financial education he needed to succeed. During the Lending Circle program Ju gained the financial skills, money, and credit he needed.

“I decided to apply for the Lending Circles program with five other undocumented students. The Lending Circle has given me an opportunity to better understand credit, loan programs, and finance in general.”

Ju received DACA, his work authorization and driver’s license. Now, Ju has started making plans for the future. He no longer feels the stigma and pressure of being undocumented, and he wants to make sure that no one has to feel that way either. After he finishes his graduate studies at San Francisco State, he plans on working to make immigrant communities healthier and happier through public service.

This is a dream that is driven by his admiration for his mother. “My mother is my best friend, my mentor, and my role model. One day, I want to be like my mother, becoming more of a risk taker, hard-worker, and never giving up on a dream.”

MicroLoan Spotlight: Yeral Caldas, Feeding the heart

Yeral was born in Chimbote, a coastal city in Peru. He has two brothers and two sisters. His mother had her own business and his dad worked in the field. After his parents divorced, he would go back and forth between them helping them work during his vacation. He would travel with his mother for her grocery business and then go to his dad who later worked in a restaurant. Yeral loved food and enjoyed working in the kitchen, preparing and cooking classic Peruvian meals.

It was there he began to dream of becoming a chef.

Yeral had a solid background to succeed as a restaurateur but coming to the United States for more opportunities brought on additional challenges. The two major ones he faced were the language barrier and not having a Social Security Number.

When Yeral would look for banks to give him a loan for his business, he was always blocked by not having a Social Security Number.

“Even though there was lot of difficulties, I was patient and had faith. I was convinced that the money would come because I had my idea of what I wanted to do,” Yeral said.

In 2011, Yeral was introduced to MAF through our staff members Joel and Doris. He credits them for reaching out to him, particularly because they both could speak Spanish with him and explained how MAF could help.

Yeral felt comfortable sharing his problems and his future plans to open his own restaurant. He went on to join two Lending Circles to build up his credit and applied for a microloan to invest in equipment and products for his business.

Yeral said his life has changed dramatically since coming to MAF. He feels more stable emotionally and economically and believes he can succeed as an entrepreneur.

His restaurant  Cholo Soy opened two years ago and he said it’s been “growing and growing.” Cholo Soy features a changing menu of Peruvian dishes like ceviche and Cabrito Norteno de Cordero (lamb shank). He cares deeply about creating a variety of dishes and highlighting the culinary offerings of all the regions in Peru to his customers.

Cholo Soy is growing in reputation. It’s on the first floor of Plaza Adelante building in the Mission District and currently only serves lunch. Once he has the capacity to do more, Yeral would like to be open all day from breakfast to dinner, hire more employees and move to a bigger location.

“My dream is to have many restaurants all over the country like a corporation and I manage them from the central location,” Yeral said.

His proudest moments have been when an article came out that gave Cholo Soy rave reviews and when senior city officials came to the restaurant and told him he served the best ceviche they’d ever tasted.

“When they say they want to eat my food, it makes me proud of my name and of my work,” he said. It’s not hard to see the passion and determination in Yeral’s eyes as he stands behind the small counter of Cholo Soy and happily passes out his food to the customers sitting on the bench in front of him. Despite the challenges of being an immigrant, he remains optimistic and even offered advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs.

“Don’t stop believing in your dreams. I believe in myself and that my food is great. There will be critics but don’t think about them. Just believe in yourself.”

Itzel: A DREAMer making a difference

I think things are going to go great and we’re going to look back and say, yes, we made a difference

Itzel always knew she was undocumented, she had known it all her life. Her status had never really impacted her life in a major way. She was happy in high school, and didn’t need a driver’s license because she could not afford a car.  Everything in her life was moving down the right path, but when she turned eighteen, things took an unexpected turn.

The nine digits that disrupted her future.

When Itzel went to apply for college, she was unable to get past the first page. She had fantastic grades, she had the support of her teacher, she did everything you were supposed to do to get in to a good school. But her dreams of attending UC Berkeley or Stanford in the fall were halted due to her lack of a Social Security Number. Itzel didn’t have a Social Security number to fill out in the application and realized she couldn’t apply to the schools that she had been looking forward to going to her entire life. She refused to let this limit her, and when her family moved she enrolled in Community College.

Itzel was undaunted, and continued to pursue her dreams.

When she moved from her home in Oregon to San Francisco she enrolled in City College. As an out of state student her fees were sometimes triple what local students were paying. Unlike other students, she could not access traditional loans, financial aid, or other student services. For her, this was a small price to pay to continue her education. At school she heard about a new program designed from Dreamers like her. DACA was her opportunity to finally get the social security number that had barred her from applying to college. Once DACA was launched, it changed Itzel’s life. She was able to apply for DACA by joining the Lending Circles for DREAMers program, where she received mentorship and financial aid through social loans, and received her first work permit.

Living the DREAM.

Now Itzel will be able to pay in-state tuition as a citizen and a resident of San Francisco for one year. She has worked hard all of her life, and she will continue to work hard to attain her American dream. She is proud to be an example of what undocumented youth can be, and is optimistic about what the DREAMer movement can accomplish in the future. “I think things are going to go great and we’re going to look back and say, yes, we made a difference.”

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